Zephaniah Notes from Josh Bramer

Posted: November 9, 2014 
Filed under: Spiritual, Waterbrook Bible Fellowship
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These notes are from Josh Bramer for Sunday, November 9, 2014, message from Zephaniah 1:14-2:4.

Clothing and Complacency

Zephaniah 1:14–2:4


I. The Need For Shelter (1:14–18)


  • The prophet announces 2 two things that he will expound upon: The “Day of Yahweh” is imminent, and it is a day of judgment and disaster (Sweeney, Zephaniah, 97).


  • Many Parallels with Joel 2.


The day of the Lord is near and fast approaching (14a).


The “Day” was fast approaching. This refers specifically to the time of the Babylonian invasion and eventual deportation (586 B.C.).


This picks up on the language of perishing “quickly” (mahēr) used in the curses of the covenant in Deut. 4:26; 7:4; 11:17; 28:20.


Also, the “nearness” language fits in with the prophetic tradition concerning the “Day of the Lord” (Isa. 13:6, 22; Ezek. 7:7; 30:7; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 3:14; Obadiah 15).


The NT also reiterates the “nearness” of the “Day of the Lord” (Phil. 4:5(?); Rev. 1:3; 22:10).


The day of the Lord will be bitter (14b).




The Day of the Lord will be characterized by wrath, devastation, and war (15–16).


The language here is reminiscent of the Covenant making ceremony on Sinai (Ex. 20:21).

Joel 2 and Amos 5:18, 20.


The “Day” is a day of wrath.


Series of five couplets. 5 sets of 2 words a piece, with both words synonymous. This elevates the intensity of the concepts.


“a day of distress and anguish”


Both have the idea of being under extreme pressure.


“a day of ruin and devastation”


The land will be absolutely devastated.

The first word could be “storm.”


“a day of darkness and gloom”


“a day of clouds and thick darkness”


The two previous couplet especially remind one of other Theophanic episodes (An appearance of God). Ex. 20:21; Deut. 4:11; 2 Sam 22:10; 1 Kings 8:10–12; Psalm 18, 97. God is said to “dwell in darkness,” and clouds” often accompany a Theophany (58 times according to J. M. P. Smith, 204–5).


“a day of trumpet blast and battle cry”


“trumpet blast” is a metonymy, the “ram’s horn” replaces the sound it will make.


The first two pairs focus on the ruin and devastation the day will cause, the second two pairs described it as dark and gloomy, and the final pair describes battle sounds (NET Bible note on verse 16).


“against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements”


Battle scene, even the high towers are going to fall. These refer to the tall guard towers on the corner of a fortified wall (Berlin, 90).


Reminiscent of Josh 6:5, 20.


The reason that God will judge them so harshly is because they have sinned against him (17).


verses 17–18 focus more on humanity. This is signaled by the phrase “on mankind.” This could refer just to Judah (Ben Zvi, 127–28), or to a universal judgment (Adele Berlin, 90). I take it as specifically Judah, but this is a picture of what will indeed be a universal judgment.


“so that they shall walk like the blind”


Could refer to Deut. 28:28–29. Again, they are experiencing the curses for violating covenant.


“Because they have sinned against the Lord”


Their sins have been catalogued in 1:4–6, 8–9, 12. This is the reason they are coming under judgment.


“their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.”


This phrase could indicate that their blood and flesh would be of no more value than the dust of the ground (Robertson, 286, Roberts, 185).


Could refer to the widespread carnage. Bodies will not be left intact, but scattered across the land (Berlin, 91).


Could pick up on the sacrificial imagery of verse 7, and echo passages from Leviticus (1:8–9, 12–13; 3:1–5, 6–11, 12–16) on whole burnt offerings (Sweeney, 103). However, the word for “intestines” in theses texts are different from the one here.


The judgment of God cannot be avoided by payment (18a).


The idea of wealth has appeared at various points in this chapter (11, 13).


This phrase is almost identical to Ezek 7:19.


The reason for universal judgment is God’s jealousy (18b).


God’s jealousy is not like man’s. Ex. 20:5, 34:14 and Deut. 5:9 describe God as “jealous.”

  • God has made man, and purchased his people. Therefore, he rightly demands devotion.
  • Also, he is jealous for his people, meaning he defends and protects them (Nahum 1:1–3).
  • It is unlike man’s jealousy because God is not suspicious, envious, or fearful.
  • He wants devotion from his people, like a spouse rightly wants the devotion of their husband/wife.
  • Furthermore, man’s worship of God is for man’s good.
  • God’s jealousy is not selfish, the way man’s can be.
  • For further discussion see, Bruckner, 145–47; 276–77.


The universal judgment will be complete and swift (18c).


This applies specifically to the inhabitants of Judah, but this applies ultimately to the final “Day of the Lord.”


Statements like this lead to the NT authors seeing a fiery judgment (2 Peter 3:10).


II. How to Find Shelter (2:1–4)


The coming together of the nation is commanded (2:1)


“Gather together, yes gather”


This word “gather” is used elsewhere of gathering stubble. It could be used to admonish Judah to see themselves as sinners, worth no more than stubble. It is fighting pride (Robertson, 290–91). Also, it could pick up the imagery of fire, and they are gathering together to be burned (Berlin, 96). Perhaps it is both.


“O shameless nation”


  • Either “shameless” meaning the they have no shame over their sin. This takes the verb ksp as “to become pale” (from the Aramaic cognate) and they do not “become pale” or “blush” because of their guilt and sin (Robertson, 291).


  • Or, “unwanted.” This takes the verb ksp as “to desire.” Her it is negated, so “undersireable.” This is its use elsewhere in Scripture (Ps 17:12; Job 14:15, Gen. 31:30; Ps 84:3) (Berlin, 96; NET Bible).


The urgency of the coming together of the nation is necessitated by the nearness of the Day of the Lord (2:2).


This verse is difficult syntactically and lexically. For those curious about the options of translation and interpretation see, J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, The Old Testament Library, ed. James L. Mays, Carol A. Newsom, and David L. Peterson (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991), 187–88; Adele Berlin. Zephaniah, 96–97; Robertson, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah,291–93.


The command to seek the Lord is given to the humble (2:3a–b).


Notice, it is the humble and those who have kept God’s commands who are to seek God. This is not primarily about repentance.


Cf. 1:6, where they are said to be those who do not to seek the Lord. Also cf. Micah 6:8.


It is plural, so emphasis is on the community. Also, it provides encouragement to the faithful (Robertson, 293–94).


The possibility of being protected in “the Day” is the reason for the commands to seek righteousness and humility (3c).


There is no guarantee of being protected fully. Even Jeremiah was taken into exile.


The reason the righteous are to seek the Lord quickly is because judgment is coming (2:4).


4 of the five Philistine cities are mentioned, Gath may have been under the control of Judah at this point (Robertson, 298). Or, Gath may not have been important enough (Haak). Moves from South to North.


Noontime: Could refer to the time of rest, therefore surprise. Or, it could indicate that the devastation would only take half a day. Or, it could indicate that the warriors were so superior that they did not need the element of surprise by attacking early or late (Robertson, 298).



  1. Take sin seriously, God does.
  2. Seek the Lord, and seek to follow Him.
  3. Believe in Christ because that is the only hope of final salvation.


A few helpful resources:


Ronald B. Allen. A Shelter in the Fury: A Prophets Stunning Picture of God. Portland:             Multnomah, 1986.

This is an extremely helpful resource. Very readable and understandable. A great scholar, but it is written in non-technical words. Also full of anecdotes and illustrations. Highly recommended.


James Bruckner. Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. NIV Application Commentary. Edited by Terry Muck. Grand Rapids: Zondevan, 2004.

            A very readable commentary. Based on good scholarship, yet accessible to those without facility in Hebrew. Also provides helpful links to modern day believer.


O. Palmer Robertson. Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. The New International Commentary   on the Old Testament. Edited by R. K. Harrison. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.

            This resource is more technical. For those looking for an in-depth commentary this is the one. However, it is not an easy read.


Adele Berlin. Zephaniah: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible. Edited by William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

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